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"The Wisconsin Idea" and the Production of Archaeological Knowledge during the Progressive Era, ca. 1900-1930

Author(s): William Green ; Roland Rodell

Year: 2016

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The social and political ferment of the Progressive Era (1890s-1920s) was associated with a golden age in Wisconsin archaeology for avocationals and professionals alike. In 1901, a group of archaeological enthusiasts led by Charles E. Brown founded the Archeological Section of the Wisconsin Natural History Society. The Section soon became the independent Wisconsin Archeological Society (WAS). Its promotion of the “scientific and educational value” of archaeology was meant to engage “scientists, educators and students everywhere”—“students” denoting anyone interested in archaeology. As curator of the State Historical Society of Wisconsin (SHSW) museum, Brown brought archaeology to the forefront of the SHSW’s statewide historic preservation and public education programs. Simultaneously, professional anthropology came to the Milwuakee Public Museum (MPM) when Samuel A. Barrett was hired in 1909, and MPM archaeological fieldwork flourished through the 1920s with an ambitious excavation program directed by Will C. McKern. The MPM program, and especially Brown’s leadership in the WAS and SHSW and his association with the University of Wisconsin Extension Division, engaged both professionals and avocational archaeologists in the Wisconsin Idea, a concept born of the Progressive Era in which academic research addresses societal needs and reaches citizens throughout the state.

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Cite this Record

"The Wisconsin Idea" and the Production of Archaeological Knowledge during the Progressive Era, ca. 1900-1930. William Green, Roland Rodell. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Orlando, Florida. 2016 ( tDAR id: 403160)



Geographic Keywords
North America - Midwest

Spatial Coverage

min long: -104.634; min lat: 36.739 ; max long: -80.64; max lat: 49.153 ;

Arizona State University The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation National Science Foundation National Endowment for the Humanities Society for American Archaeology Archaeological Institute of America